Best Original Score 2014

Are you still scrambling to get your 2014 Oscar picks in and win that pot of gold or at least bragging rights among your friends?

I am here to offer some help…at least in the music department.

Sadly, I have to say my favorite was not even nominated…   Mark Orton for Nebraska his music made the movie. I love the sounds of Americana. Coupled with the cinematography Orton hit the nail on the head!! The harmonies and orchestration had more depth than any of the nominees in my humble opinion.

Following is my breakdown of the nominees for Best Original Score…

The Book Thief, John Williams

I thought John Williams deserved the Oscar last year for, “Lincoln.” Perhaps the Academy is looking away from the maestro just to get some new blood…well that theory doesn’t hold weight regarding perennial winner Meryl Streep. For this film Williams went back to more of the Romantic Period style we expect although a bit more pastoral than Wagnerian.

Gravity, Steven Price

Should have been John Williams penned! Williams and outer space = Oscar!

Her, William Butler, Owen Pallett

The soundscape is kind of cool and fits the quirkiness of the film. Although minimalist and slightly boring. Nice sounds though!

Philomena, Alexandre Desplat

Compositionally strong although a bit repetitive. We’ll see how the Academy reacts to the film in general, could take home the gold!

Saving Mr. Banks, Thomas Newman

Another minimalist, new-agey piano score. I think it will suffer from comparison’s to the mega hits of the Sherman’s legendary Mary Poppins songs.

My pick;         Philomena, Alexandre Desplat

Click for past Oscar Picks and 2014 Best Song

Run Playlist 1/30/2014

Anyone who works out with their headphones knows how awesome it is when you get a big lift from your favorite song. Or hearing a cool tune you would have never picked shuffle through on your picturesque jog… With 1000s of songs on my iPod I almost always shuffle.

I’ve always thought it would be cool, interesting, perhaps even motivating to write about each playlist and the music’s effect on myself and the workout. Then I thought that might be kind of boring. Then I thought, “Yeah,” I was right…on both counts. ;)

Really just another chance to talk about music!

January 30, 2014

3 Mile Run

..And then there’s days when it is just you against yourself and no music is going to take you to the next level. That was this day’s run.

“Seasons of Madness,” -Catharsis

“Gimme Your Love,” -Michael Schenker

“Convoy,” -C. W. McCall

“Already Gone,” -Eagles

“Pieces De Clavecin Book 2, Les Moissonneurs,” F. Couperin, perf. John Williams

“The Struggle Within,” -Metallica

“Serpens Cauda,” -Tony MacAlpine

“Aftershock,” -Van Halen

“Brother John,” -Blues Traveler

“See You in Hell,” Yngwie J. Malmsteen

“Heroes End,” -Judas Priest

“Octopus’s Garden,” -Beatles

“I Will Remember,” – Queensryche

There was some good music on this playlist, but, as mentioned, there are days when the struggle is truly within…to steal the Metallica title. Body just wasn’t responding, maybe it had to do with the leg weights I lifted the day before.

To the music…

If you never heard Catharsis you aren’t alone. They were a local San Diego band that just missed it…and thats too bad cause they were really good, progressive and heavy and just getting started. Anyway you might know the guitarist, Scott Fox. He is a good friend and my musical partner in the Slayen & Fox guitar duo. If you ever get a chance look up Catharsis(make sure it was the SD band) and give them a listen.

Yes, “Convoy,” is the silly novelty song from the 1970’s. You know during the CB radio days? Smokey & The Bandit? Guess I am dating myself.

Highlight of this playlist was Tony MacAlpine. Known somewhat as an Yngwie clone from the 80’s Tony has been an afterthought in my listing all these years since. Recently I had the chance to see him play on “that Metal Show.” It definitely renewed my interest enough to head over to the fruit stand and download a couple tunes of his. “Serpens Cauda,” being the song that captured my ear the most.

Lowlights, “Octopus’s Garden,” just not a running song.  Also, Yngwie’s, “See you in Hell.” Definitely not one his better efforts. The guitar licks are OK its just a little too cheesy.

Check out previous Run Playlist Posts.

Better Than Coffee, Gustav Holst, “Jupiter”

Click here for previous Better Than Coffee posts.

JupiterI think most of you who read this blog would agree music is the best ‘drug’ of all time…including our beloved morning coffee.

This series has been and will continue to be a public service for those of you trying to cut your caffeine intake, by enjoying some fast/energetic music…. 😉

…Or for those of you looking to enhance that morning cup.

Gustav Holst, “Jupiter,” from, “The Planets.”

If you are unfamiliar with, “The Planets,” each planet was characterized musically. “Jupiter,” was composed as The Bringer of Jollity. This piece is fun and furious. Even the slower parts are dignified, stately and triumphant!

Do you think, “Star Wars,” composer John Williams mightn’t been influenced? hmmm

This video is another in the line of animated scores click here for others.

Happy Friday, Enjoy!

Yngwie J. Malmsteen, San Diego Concert Review

I have seen a lot of musical acts in my day. My first concert was Ozzy with guitarist Randy Rhoads just two months before his fatal plane crash. I’ve seen Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimmy Page legendary rock/metal axe-men. I’ve seen classical greats John Williams and the Romeros. I’ve been to the Chicago and Los Angeles  Symphonies. I’ve seen local and less-known musicians come through town and absolutely blow everyone away. I’ve seen some of the biggest acts in the world; Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith…, as well as, some of the most incredible street musicians in America’s big cities…the people you miss your train simply to hear a few more songs. I’ve been to shows in rock, metal, Jazz, classical, world music, pop,…on and on! But, I never saw/heard anything like I did Tuesday night at San Diego’s House of Blues.

Rising ForceYngwie J. Malmsteen put on a clinic!

Since his debut album, “Rising Force,” in 1984, I have been a fan. His blistering fast runs and arpeggios combining Heavy Metal with musical phrasing of the Baroque and Romantic periods are absolutely stunning. ‘The man obviously took his guitar lessons seriously,’ as one of my friends put it!

The knocks against Yngwie for the past thirty years are as earned as his virtuosity.

He is known for being a bit of a Diva and arrogant. ‘Bit’ might be an understatement. His music, although it has stood the test of time for thirty years, is thought to be lacking in general appeal to those outside of the music/guitar aficionado. There are not a lot of hits, hooks and catchy tunes in Yngwie’s output. His sound and style have not changed much over the years.

The Diva tag comes from a somewhat pompous persona. The J. in his name, as if he is going to be confused with another Yngwie Malmsteen. The use of words in his titles like opus. Oh yeah and he is 50 years old and still years leather pants, no shirt and gaudy jewelry…so the argument is made.

Yngwie hasn’t changed much over the years…which can be viewed as both a lacking and admirable trait. Vivaldi the Italian composer wrote over 500 concertos. Since they were all similar in style it is often jokingly asked , ‘Did Vivaldi compose 500 concertos or one concerto 500 times?’ This question might be applied to Yngwie’s output over his career, as well….but no denying the man’s sheer capability to play the guitar like no other.

Heading to last Tuesdays concert I was stoked to see Yngwie, but, more as seeing a relic. He could be crossed off my list of musicians I want to see but haven’t. I thought it would be a little boring. Watching Yngwie shred all over the place while his band sheepishly backs him up.

May 14, San Diego Setlist

I could not have been more wrong! Yngwie was incredible. His showmanship was incredible, his skills were incredible and his band was incredible!

The ability to play a concert is hard enough for anyone…but to put on a show of that caliber and not lose your musical chops is awe-inspiring.

We’ve all seen musicians use gimmicks live. Playing with their teeth, spinning and throwing their instruments, creatively creating feedback while putting on a ‘rock show.’ Yngwie does all of these, but, it doesn’t seem gimmicky. He legitimately has put time into incorporating all these theatrics into his ‘musical’ performance.

His speed and precision have not declined at all in the years since his 1984 debut. Equally astounding is his use of effects. All guitarists use them, like the whammy bar, they often become a crutch to make any level musician sound rocking cool. Yngwie obviously has invested time working out his electronics as part of his guitar acumen.

Most impressive during the show, was his ability, while playing a blistering arpeggio riff to accompany himself with bass pedals using his feet. Not just one note to give a boost underneath but a full contrapuntal  bass line with his feet while seamlessly arpeggiating over the top.

band side YNGWIE SIDEThe band, in typical Yngwie fashion, are not easy to find out much info about. However, these guys played great. Of course to play with Yngwie…who the band referred to as ‘the Maestro,’ throughout the night, you’ve got to  have chops. You have to play fast, but, they put on a rock show, as well. They laid down a rock groove that Yngwie could soar over with his guitar acrobatics while keeping the crowd rocking, not letting it feel like a man and…. oh yeah a band(even though Yngwie does take about 3/4 of the stage for himself)…kudos to those guys!!

Bottom line…if you haven’t seen Yngwie yet but have thought about it….GO!

ABC’s of the Guitar

An ABC Award has been bestowed on yours truly and this humble blog, ’12 Notes & the Truth!’ Thanks so much to my blogging colleague on the other side of the pond…Heavy Metal Overload…a true music fan if ever there was one…make sure you pay his blog a visit!!!

Without doubt the hardest part of this ABC list was deciding on a topic. I have been so busy, performing, teaching and networking that I didnt have a lot of time to devote to this spot for a while. My first and favorite idea was to write a description of each musical key, A, B, C…. Even the novice can see the flaw in that theory. The musical alphabet ends on letter G what would I do with H-Z? And what about the ‘#’ & ‘b’ keys??…scrap that idea.

Went through a host of other blah ideas before it hits me! Why I am trying to be so cute just write about what I know…the guitar!!!

So here it is the A-Zs of the worlds greatest instrument…the guitar!

A, AXE- Ever heard the term axeman? Well unless it is some crazy Jack Nicholsonesque dude it refers to a guitarist(no jokes please)….the axe being his guitar. Of course every other instrument has had to steal the idea…there’s just something uncool about hearing a saxophonist saying he “needs to grab his axe.”  Here is Michael Schenker an axeman supreme on, “Attack of the Mad Axeman.” BTW the ‘axeman’ on the left of the video doubling on keyboards is San Diego’s own Wayne Findlay and one of my music buds back in our younger days. Have I ever mentioned that? Haha, well guess I am just proud to see one of us San Diego kids living the Rock n Roll dream!

B, BLUES- Sure, blues is not necessarily a guitar term, but, can you imagine the world without blues guitar? No Robert Johnsons who influenced the BB Kings who influenced the whole Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton generation who influenced the whole Eddie Van Halen generation who influenced me and my generation…I would be calling my saxophone an ‘Axe’ if it wasn’t for this lineage. Oh yeah don’t forget Stevie Ray Vaughan!

Dreadnought
Dreadnought Guitar Body Shape

C, Capo- A capo is a small clamp that guitarists place at different frets on the neck to change the ‘key’ of the guitar which facilitates easy transitions to other keys.

D, Dreadnought- A Dreadnought guitar is a style/body shape made famous by C.F. Martin. The term ‘Dreadnought,’ was used in reference to the British Navy’s large battleships of the day, early 1900’s.

These guitars are characteristic in having large ‘squared’ bouts and a booming sound.

E,  E, A, D, G, B, E the open strings of the guitar from the 6th to the 1st string. A must know for ALL guitarists!!!

F, Fifth-Now some of you are really interested! No not a fifth of Jack…the musical interval of a perfect 5th. The fifth is the skeleton of all chords(Maj. & Min.) and for rock guitarists extremely important for the formation of power chords which are made up exclusively of the interval of root & 5th.

G, Golpe- Golpe is a technique stemming from the Spanish/Gypsy Flamenco tradition. The guitarist strikes the top of the guitar creating a percussive sound while strumming with other fingers. Note the use of the previously mentioned capo in the video, as well.

H, Harmonics- Harmonics are not exclusive to guitar by any means but they do play a large role in playing guitar. The technique actually cuts off part of the overtone series(lower end) which make up a musical note. The resulting sound resembles a high, thin, bell like texture. The intro of Van Halen’s “Top Jimmy,” uses this technique.

Steve Vai Ibanez
Check out Ibanez, Vai Guitars

I, Inlay- Inlays are part of the artistic design of a guitar. Inlay can be placed all around the sound hole(rosette) soundboard, front, back and sides of a guitar. Some of the fanciest inlays are put into the neck of a guitar. Sometimes just dots and sometimes elaborate as seen here.

J, Jimi Hendrix Chord, The ol’ Dominant 7#9 chord! Also called a V7#9. To build this chord you would take your root chord say C7 and add the note ‘#9’ which is the 9th note above C -C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D and raise that note one half step to D#. The chord symbol will appear as: C7#9, etc., for any root note. I call it the Jimi Hendrix chord cause he used it a lot and when I was a kid learning his songs is when I was first introduced to the chord. Check out Foxy Lady or Purple Haze for examples. The sound is a bit bluesy and has some dissonance with the #9 against the Major 3rd.

K, Keys- The guitar has a handful of musical keys that are conducive to the instrument and a handful that are not! Guitarists tend to like sharp(#) keys vs flat(b) keys. Flat keys take away the open strings making the guitar harder to play as noted in the letter O, Open Chords. Popular guitar keys include C, G, D, A and E (as well as, their relative minor keys). Any key with more than one flat is often avoided especially by beginners.

L, Lick- This is a great guitar word somewhat synonymous with the term ‘Riff.’ Guitarists practice hours on end trying to create new ideas and phrases which are, ‘Licks,’ and ‘Riffs.’ Licks are more of short phrases placed in improvised solos while riffs are more like a composed guitar part think of the intro to “Smoke on the Water,” or “Iron Man.”

M, Mute- The most common type of muting is done by placing the palm of the strumming hand against the strings near the bridge of the guitar. Notation is often ‘P.M.’ for palm mute.

N, Nut- The nut is simply the piece of  bone or plastic, among other possible materials, at the top of the neck. It has carved slots for the strings to rest inside which keeps them inline as they lead up to and wrap around the tuning pegs.

O, Open Chords- One of the nice things about the guitar especially for beginners is the use of open chords. They are somewhat simple to play as they make use of a combination of fingered/fretted notes and open strings. Bar chords are harder to play as all strings need to be fretted.

P, Percussion- Believe it or not the guitar is classified as a percussion instrument, not a string instrument(chordophone.) By definition a percussion instrument is one that is put into vibration by being struck and consequently the pitch fades away. Piano is another such ‘percussion’ instrument. Electric guitars fall into another category, that of ‘electronic’ instruments. Electronic instruments can have their sound altered and lengthened through electronic means.

Q, Quadrant- This is a term I use to differentiate parts of the neck. I divide the neck into sections for study. For instance I will play on the bottom three strings first 6 frets. In this territory I will work on as many permutations of a particular scale, arpeggio etc. Then move to the top three strings same frets. Then down to fret 7-12 on each side of the strings.

R, Rasgueado- Spanish term meaning to strum. Usually associated with Flamenco guitar playing. Rasgueado is a rhythmic use of the fingers and thumb while strumming a guitar. It is a percussive strum by nature. In the video watch how his fingers fire in succession.

S, Solo- The beloved guitar solo! Ruined forever since the demise of rock. This demise can be traced to the weak musicality typically displayed in late 80’s hair/glam metal giving way to Grunge. Grunge was a movement that sought to distance itself from the aforementioned Hair Bands.

Maybe ruined forever is a bit harsh, but, music sure has changed since the early 90’s. I grew up on the rock guitar solo and it is not something I want to see go away. It is often the most musically adventurous part of most pop music. My music heroes were the guitar solo shredders…Eddie Van Halen, Michael Schenker, Jimi Page, Randy Rhoads, Tony Iommi, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani…. Here is the quintessential rock guitar solo Eddie Van Halen’s Eruptions.

T, the ‘Thumb’- The Thumb is the nickname given to jazz guitar legend Wes Montgomery. His unique technique employed a drastically positioned thumb. One of my all-time favorite guitarists.

U, Upstroke- An upstroke is simply a strum across the strings in an upward motion. Typically, upstrokes happen on a weak beat. A strum of down-up-down-up etc. would sound as STRONG-weak-STRONG-weak.

V, Vibrato- Vibrato is a technique employed by stringed instruments where the string is actually moved in a controlled manner either ‘side to side’ or ‘up and down’ to add articulation to a note. As mentioned before the guitar is a percussion instrument. Vibrato is one of the few ways we as guitarists can actually manipulate a note after it is struck into motion.

W, Whammy Bar- Also called a vibrato bar, tremolo arm…The whammy bar is a short piece of metal(a stick) inserted into the bridge which can either lift or depress the bridge forcing the strings into some ‘unnatrual’ sounds. The whammy bar in the hands of an amateur becomes a gimmick. In the hands of a skilled musician it becomes a devastating way to command a guitar with unique and angular articulations.

XBracingX, X Bracing- Have you ever dropped a pick inside your guitar? No problem you can just slide it out right? Nope. The top of a guitar, the soundboard, is braced underneath with a lattice of wood to help project the sound off the top of the guitar. One technique of bracing is called X Bracing.

Y, Yuquijiro Yocoh- Was a Japanese guitar composer (1925-2009.) Yocoh is most well-known for his variations on the theme of the traditional Japanese folk song, “Sakura.” I played the piece for my Senior Recital in college and still play it to this day. The video features John Williams on guitar. Listen for the previously mentioned palm mutes at :40 & 4:25 and harmonics at 2:25.

Flying Z by DeanZ, The Flying Z- Most people even non guitar aficionados have heard or seen a flying V guitar. But, lesser known is the flying Z also known as a Destroyer.

The Oscar for Best Original Score, Goes To…

The Oscar For Best Original Song, Goes To…

The 2013 Academy Awards are all set to be broadcast this weekend. A time for movie goers Oscarto celebrate their favorite films and actors of the year. A time for millionaire actor$ and billionaire $tudios to finally be bestowed some actual credit for their hard work. 😉

Of all the yearly award shows the Oscars is my favorite. Much more than the Grammys, my own industries honors. Even more than the ESPYs…wait do we really need a sports award show? Isn’t that why they play the games to figure out who’s the best?

Of course my favorite awards of the night are for my favorite part of most movies…the music! Best original score and best original song.

Nominees for Best Original Score:

While all are very well composed scores with interesting soundscapes, there were none that were truly unique or mind-blowing, over the top. That said…

Anna KareninaDario Marianelli

Perhaps the most artistic of all the nominees. Reminiscent of the Russian Romantic composers of the 19th and 20th centuries.

ArgoAlexandre Desplat

A nice combination of modern technology and middle-east flavors. In my opinion the synth driven background is not as difficult in compositional nature as Lincoln and Anna Karenina.

Life of PiMychael Danna

Danna sets a very nice mood with the peaceful score in Life of Pi. The use of eastern instruments and ideals lends perfectly to the movie. In my opinion the score is a bit too minimalist and might suffer from its demure sonic atmosphere.

Lincoln–  John Williams

I am really impressed with this one. When I first heard Williams was penning the music for Lincoln I kind of rolled my eyes. ‘Lets use the biggest name in the film scoring business.’ He tends to be bombastic and his moves often have a similar style. However, I really like what he did for Lincoln. Williams did a great job composing Americana music, as well as, setting traditional songs of the day. Maybe not some of his most memorable sounds, but, some of his truly best artistically and structurally!

SkyfallThomas Newman

This is a cool fun score. Newman did a great job interpreting the James Bond theme we all love with some techno beats and backgrounds. I think this nomination will suffer from being a 007 film and similar to Argo I don’t think this piece had the same compositional chops as Lincoln and Anna Karenina.

So you can probably already tell where I am going with this pick. In my opinion it is definitely between Lincoln and Anna Karenina. My personal vote would be for Lincoln. I am torn on who I think the Academy has picked. The slightly superior Lincoln or the more artistic Anna Karenina.

Gotta go with my gut…

The Oscar for Best Original Score, Goes To…John Williams for Lincoln!!

A Guitar Christmas, John Williams, Villancico de Navidad

I have a had a blast sharing some different styles of guitar based holiday music with everyone over the past week. Hopefully, you all found at least one new piece out of the bunch. I did! The Jimi Hendrix medley is a new one to me.

This last one is performed by legendary classical guitarist, John Williams and written by Agustin Barrios. It’s not a recognizable Christmas tune like the previous posts. It is a beautiful classical piece.

Previous, A Guitar Christmas posts.

Wishing you all the best holiday! Enjoy!